Dec 6, 2009 9:22am
Yea, most of the songs on Dylan's last album were written with Hunter:
A spokesperson for Bob Dylan has confirmed online reports that nine of the 10 tracks from his forthcoming album Together Through Life were co-written by Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter. The liner notes will read “All music by Bob Dylan except ‘My Wife’s Home Town’ (music by Bob Dylan and Willie Dixon) – All lyrics by Bob Dylan with Robert Hunter except ‘This Dream Of You’ which is lyrics and music by Bob Dylan.” ...
On 1988’s Down In The Groove, Hunter received co-writing credits on the songs “Silvio” and “The Ugliest Girl In The World.” On that record and 1986’s Knocked Out Loaded Dylan wrote with a number of collaborators, but the only other time he wrote the vast majority of an album with someone else was 1976’s Desire — where all but two of the songs were written with Jacques Levy.
Bob Dylan’s latest, Together Through Life, arrives today, but while critics are hailing this fresh batch of hardened, urgent songs, much of the advance chatter surrounding the album centers on the involvement of Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter.
“Hunter is an old buddy,” Dylan explains in our next cover story, which hits newsstands this week. Dylan and Hunter collaborated on 10 songs, all but one of the album’s tracks. “We could probably write a hundred songs together if we thought it was important or the right reasons were there,” Dylan tells Rolling Stone. “He’s got a way with words and I do too. We both write a different type of song than what passes today for songwriting.”
Dylan and Hunter collaborated before on “Silvio” and “The Ugliest Girl In The World” for Dylan’s 1988 album Down In The Groove. The pair’s latest efforts, however, mark Dylan’s deepest work with a collaborator since his 1976 album Desire, which saw Dylan team with Jacques Levy for all but two songs.
Dylan explained his creative partnership with Hunter to RS contributor Doug Brinkley, a noted historian and Rice University professor who’s also profiled Norman Mailer, Kurt Vonnegut and Ken Kesey for RS. Brinkley interviewed Dylan for our new issue, which arrives this week. During their conversation, Dylan kept the door open to future collaborations with Hunter. “I think we’ll be writing a couple of other songs too for some off-Broadway play,” Dylan says.
(Together Through LIfe)
Bob Dylan has sung in many voices on his records: the nasal-braying alarm of "A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall"; the acidic dismissal in "Like a Rolling Stone"; the country hermit on The Basement Tapes; the grizzly wisecracking drifter on 2001's Love and Theft and 2006's Modern Times. But Dylan, who turns 68 in May, has never sounded as ravaged, pissed off and lusty, all at once, as he does on Together Through Life. It is a murky-sounding, often perplexing record. The lyrics seem dashed off in spots, like first drafts, while the performances — by Dylan's current touring band — feel like head arrangements caught on the run between Never Ending Tour dates. But there is a grim magnetism coursing through these 10 new songs — and most of it is in Dylan's vividly battered singing.
The shock of his voice comes right away. Dylan starts the record as if he's at a loss for words. "I love you, pretty baby/You're the only love I've ever known/Just as long as you stay with me/The whole world is my throne," he sings in the muddy samba "Beyond Here Lies Nothin'." It is a plain, unpromising opening, except for the delivery: a deep, exhausted rasp that sounds like the singer has been beaten to a pulp, then left for dead at the side of the road. When Dylan gets to the title punch line in each verse, he grumbles it with an audible sneer. As far as he can tell, there isn't much world left to sit on.
Dylan's throat has never been anyone's idea of clear and soaring. But as a young folk singer, he strained to sound older and more sorely tested than he was, as if he had known Charley Patton, A.P. Carter and the Great Depression firsthand. He's finally there, with an authentically pitted instrument ideally suited to the devastated settings of these songs and the rusted desert-shed production (by Dylan under his usual pseudonym, Jack Frost): brushed-snare strolls and bar-band shuffles; bag-of-snakes guitars, with frequent stinging fills by Mike Campbell of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers; the rippled sigh and mocking laugh of an accordion icing most songs, played by David Hidalgo of Los Lobos. Compared to the Western-swing-like buoyance of Love and Theft and the Fifties-Chess-session air of Modern Times, this record sounds like it was cut in the dead-end Mexican border town in Orson Welles' 1958 film noir, Touch of Evil, especially when Dylan gets to lines like the closing few in "Forgetful Heart," a musky blend of banjo, dirty guitar and utter emotional defeat: "All night long/I lay awake and listen to the sound of pain/The door has closed forevermore/If indeed there ever was a door."
That hardened, bleating voice is also perfect for these times: A nation drunk on hope less than six months ago now drowns in red ink and pink slips. "Some people they tell me/I got the blood of the land in my voice," Dylan cracks in the Nashville Skyline-style sway of "I Feel a Change Comin' On." But the country in these songs is running on fumes, into brick walls. "State gone broke/The county's dry/Don't be looking at me with that evil eye," Dylan snaps in the Chicago-blues lark "My Wife's Home Town," spitting the lines like a CNN news ticker. (The name of that town, according to Dylan: Hell.) "Shake Shake Mama," a string of comic come-ons with a Louisiana juke-dance gait, ends not with scoring but dire warning: "If you're goin' on home, better go the shortest way."
There is another line worth noting in "I Feel a Change Comin' On" — "You are as whorish as ever" — and Dylan growls it like a compliment. Together Through Life is, in a surprisingly direct way, about the only thing you can count on when you're surrounded by clowns, thieves and government (sometimes all the same thing) and what happens when you lose — or throw away — your good thing. In the slow hurt of "Life Is Hard," Dylan bites down gently on each syllable, over soft-shoe drums and weeping pedal steel ("My dreams are locked and barred/Ad-mit-ting life is hard/With-out you near me"). And regret doesn't get much better than his strict instructions in the final verse of "If You Ever Go to Houston," a Doug Sahm-like shot of norteño R&B: "Find the barrooms I got lost in/And send my memories home/Put my tears in a bottle/Screw the top on tight."
Ultimately, Together Through Life is a mixed bag of this decade's Dylan — impulsive, caustic, sentimental, long done with the contrived details of contemporary record-making. The album may lack the instant-classic aura of Love and Theft or Modern Times, but it is rich in striking moments, set in a willful rawness, and comes with a wicked finish. "It's All Good" is a bayou-John Lee Hooker boogie that opens with bad shit ("Big politician telling lies/Restaurant kitchen, all full of flies/Don't make a bit of difference") and just gets worse ("Brick by brick, they tear you down/A teacup of water is enough to drown"). It's a portrait of an ugly America, devolving into bare-knuckle Darwinism — survival of the coldest and cruelest — and Dylan rubs your face in it. "It's all good," he sings repeatedly with a cruel shrug in that voice, knowing damn well it's not. But Dylan is just as sure, in nearly every other song here, that there is strength in numbers — and that number is two.
(Posted: Apr 13, 2009)
I could have just posted a link, but wanted to cut and paste to make sure it wasn't too much trouble for anyone or seen as just a one-on-one dialogue.
This post was modified by bluedevil on 2009-12-06 17:22:06